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Norman Wells hosts NWT community leaders

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 14, 2012

There will be lots to talk about at the 46th annual Northwest Territories Association of Communities annual general meeting held this year in Norman Wells, but that's nothing new for past attendees.

NNSL photo/graphic

NWT Association of Communities CEO, Yvette Gonzalez, left, talks with Clarence Wood, NWT Association of Communities vice-president for cities, town and villages. This will be Gonzalez's final year serving as CEO after 27 years with the association. - NNSL file photo

"It's always great when you get together with your peers to have this meeting, I think it's important," said Inuvik Mayor, Denny Rodgers. "It's an opportunity to share our concerns, share our ideas.

"We all have some things that are specific to our own regions and yet, as always, there are many, many things that we deal with as municipalities or as hamlets that are the same concerns."

Rodgers said energy is always a big topic for discussion and expects this year to be no exception.

Over the three-day event, members will be privy to a presentation by the Northwest Territories Power Corporation on its proposed general rate increase, a discussion session with Premier Bob McLeod, Minister Glen Abernethy, Minister Tom Beaulieu, and Minister Robert C. McLeod, and a Planning for Success workshop given by Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band in British Columbia.

The meeting also includes 13 other sessions on the topics of climate change, disaster risk reduction, the Mackenzie Valley fibre optic link, solid waste regulations and community wellness planning, to name a few.

This annual general meeting is also somewhat of a milestone, as it will be the last for president Gord Van Tighem and chief executive officer Yvette Gonzalez, due to Van Tighem choosing not to run again for mayor of Yellowknife and Gonzalez deciding to retire.

Both agree the membership has matured over the years into an effective and vital organization.

"I've worked with 10 premiers, gone through 10 presidents, went through division (of Nunavut from the NWT) - I think right now the communities are better able to deal with their issues locally than they used to be," said Gonzalez, who has worked for the association for 27 years. "Things have changed dramatically since 1985.

"I think the biggest change is the strength in partnership certainly with this association and the government. In the early '80s we were very much a lobby association where now we work in strong partnership. We're still very much into the advocacy scene, but we just deliver a lot more services to communities now through the association. It's certainly a more mature association with more mature membership."

Van Tighem, who has served as president on the board for seven years, said the resolutions passed at annual general meetings have done a lot to support the development of NWT communities.

"The resolutions are very effective in taking priorities, mutually shared priorities of the communities, and conveying them to either the territory or the federal government," he said.

In a joking reference to the slogan of this year's annual general meeting, "So much more than dogs, dumps and ditches," Van Tighem said the association now has the capacity to take action on many important issues that used to fall to the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.

"Now it's gone beyond (what it was), focusing on community sustainability, infrastructure updating, dealing with climate change situations," he said.

"Where (the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs) used to do a lot of the work, now they just kinda watch and try to keep up."

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